Summer 2024

ONE COACH: Surviving the coach's hot seat

Legendary Florida State football head coach Bobby Bowden once said, “There’s a saying in my business that there are two kinds of coaches – those who have been fired and those who haven’t been fired yet. That’s kind of like prostate cancer. Every man will have it if he lives long enough.”

One moment you’re the ‘toast of the town’, the next conversations on how much it will cost to buy out your contract becomes commonplace. Yep, you’re a coach on the hot seat. But, your shaky job status doesn’t just put more pressure on you to get more wins, it also puts an extra anvil on the person you married.

Tennessee Volunteers head football coach Butch Jones fits the bill as one of the coaches on the hot seat. After his Volunteers were blanked at home against the Georgia Bulldogs 41-0 in front of the Tennessee faithful at Neyland Stadium. It was one of the worst home losses for Tennessee, getting shut out for the first time since 1994 and suffered its most lopsided home loss since 1905. Now at 3-2, coach Jones and his wife Barb Jones, will have a week off to recover and retool for the next game.

“They say there are two kinds of coaches, coaches that have been fired and coaches that will be fired,” says Barb to ESPN. “We have never been through that in Butch’s career. All of this right now — we’ve never been in this territory.”

Before taking the Tennessee head job, Butch Jones won a total of four conference championships with stops at Central Michigan and Cincinnati. Now in his fifth year with Tennessee, Jones has a 33-23 record, but the wins aren’t piling high enough.

“You have to learn to put on blinders and focus on your family,” says Barb to ESPN. “We know the noise is only going to get louder.”

Barb attempts to ‘keep the blinders on’ by staying off the message boards, putting down the newspaper and listening to anything other than sports talk radio. Those work briefly, but it doesn’t keep all the ‘noise’ from creeping into the family unit.

“The coaches are almost in a bunker,” Barb says to ESPN. “They go back to work, the next practice and the next game, and figure out how to get better. We go back to life. They do, too, but it’s different. We’re still in grocery stores and still in school. That’s part of it. I understand that and so do the kids, but it doesn’t make it easy.”

Barb gives a view of the rollercoaster ride many coach’s spouses can experience when the wins are few and far between. Recently, OneCoach interviewed then-Fresno State offensive line coach Mark Weber and his wife Kathy to gain more insight of the difficulties the coaching life can have on the coach and their family.

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